Why College Athletes on Scholarship should graduate with a Degree

Table of Content


            Every year, thousands of students are enrolled into universities and colleges in the United States on scholarships based on their sporting prowess. Intercollegiate sports are a fertile breeding ground for sporting talent in professional sports like basketball, baseball, American football, ice hockey and many others. Being a college athlete has many challenges to it. It is usually already hard enough to balance between academic work and sporting activity in high school, and once in college, sporting students are more strained since class work becomes more demanding and athletic coaches embark on rigorous training routines seeking to attain the prestige that come with winning national honors in sports (Eitzen, 2000). Participation in college athletics offers a student many opportunities. Teams travel throughout the nation and members gain new experiences and exposure. However, a number of college student athletes on scholarships or even those not on scholarships end up leaving college without a degree. As I shall elaborate in this research paper, it is very necessary that college athletes on scholarships should graduate with a degree.

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The nature of College Athletic scholarships

            High school students who have exhibited exceptional athletic prowess are usually contacted by college athletic coaches for recruitment into college athletic teams. Intercollegiate sporting athletics are very prestigious, and every college is always looking to be a force to reckon with. Hundreds of other high school graduates especially those who cannot afford to finance their college and university education apply for consideration for either full scholarships or partial scholarships to various colleges throughout the nation.

Upon successful application, college students on athletic scholarships are expected to treat their sporting obligation very seriously. The rigor followed in training often matches the standards of professional sporting activity. It becomes very hard to balance between class work and athletics, no wonder some students’ academic performance drifts below standards. Many college students view acquisition of college athletic scholarships as the doorway to a professional athletic career. It is so unfortunate since very few actually manage to make the cut to be drafted into professional sports like baseball and football (Eitzen, 2000).

All college athletes are usually not paid for their commitment and input to college athletics. It is therefore a pity that a student on scholarship puts all his or her effort in sporting activity at the expense of his or her formal education, gets no payments from it despite having compromised his or her standards of formal education. Time in college passes by very fast, and before long other obligations step in to increase the pressure on a student.

Acquiring a degree therefore is like an insurance policy and a ticket to a better life when a student on scholarship’s dreams and aspirations of breaking into professional athletics unfolds into nothing. This is one main reason why college athletes on scholarships should graduate with a degree. It increases their chances of making a better life for themselves and their families if their ambitions of building a professional career in athletics are not realized (National Library of Education, 2000). A student who graduates from college with a degree is more likely to have access to alternative professional disciplines like in economics or information science (Jacowski, 2007).

The main objective of going to college is being awarded with a degree at the end of the course each student is pursuing. Not graduating with the degree is therefore a failure on the part of the student and the college itself. A formal education has always opened up more doors to the majority of college graduates than other extracurricular activities like singing, acting and athletics (National Library of Education, 2000). Colleges must therefore put I place elaborate mechanisms to ensure that their students, more so those on scholarships (because in most cases they have higher urgency of establishing themselves socially and economically), graduate with a degree so that they may be better equipped to pursue their dreams of self sufficiency and accomplishment (Freemen, 2006).

Importance of Formal Education

            Many college athletes, not just those in scholarships, are not sufficiently prepared for life after their stint in college. This is mainly due to their excessive optimism that an athletic scholarship in college is going to lead to a career in professional athletics. However, according to statistics released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), only between two and three percent of athletes in the intercollegiate sports arena end up securing a career in professional sport.

Without a degree, college athletes who do not make the cut to be drafted into professional sporting establishments like the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball would find it hard to earn a living. Despite this reality, intercollegiate athletic competitions are long and do not leave sufficient time for academic work. Most colleges do not make public the rates of successful graduation for athletes under scholarship. Having a degree not only increases a college leaver’s chance of securing a real job but is also an opener to establishing better working relationships with people in different levels in contemporary society (Framball, 2010).

Even for those college graduates who successfully manage to build a professional career in sport, a degree comes in handy as it will help them manage their affairs better (National Library of Education, 2000). There have been cases of college athletes who graduate from college and make it big in professional sport, but they are virtually illiterate. For example, Dexter Manley secured a scholarship in Oklahoma State University based on his prowess in football. He left the university unable to read and had a very successful career with the Washington Redskins as a defensive end. Dexter could not even read the praises newspapers poured on him based on his prowess in the field. He had to go back to school after retiring after openly admitting that he could not read or write. Such embarrassments and inconveniences can be avoided it is ensured that college athletes on scholarship graduate with a degree.

Application of a degree in sports management

            Whether or not a college student makes it big in professional athletics, it is necessary to have the realization that a sporting career ends very early in life. It is very unlikely that professional athlete will compete actively into the forties and fifties. Since most college athletes on scholarships are hell-bent building a career in sports, they should realize that a degree is required for one to be deemed qualified in sports management.

            Alternative avenues for establishing a career in professional sport include coaching at different levels, managing sports facilities, referring and formulation of sports policy. A person cannot get into these without first having a degree. Of more concern is the fact that athletes who turn pro have the highest chance of venturing into these careers, and they face the highest risk of failing to graduate without a degree. Acquisition of an academic degree should therefore not be viewed as an auxiliary to college athletic scholarships but an integral part of the endeavor to establish a wholesome profession in sport and in other disciplines (David, 2009).

Application of a degree in investment

            Graduating with a degree will enable college graduates athletes on scholarship who make it professional to make wiser decisions to invest the money they make while still active more wisely so that they can secure their future and those of their families. Without adequate training in personal and financial planning and management, all success garnered from a career in professional athletics is thrown away. The essence of having gone to college therefore goes missing. College education is supposed to equip leavers with the capacity to plan their lives in a more organized way so that they can build better lives for themselves (Jacowski, 2007). The hallmark of this is in the award of a degree in a significant field. If this is not achieved, then it is an opportunity wasted, virtually.

Measures that should be taken (Recommendations)

            So far, I have emphasized on the importance of college athletes on scholarship graduating with a degree. Now, I want to discuss several measures that can be taken to ensure that this happens. Number one, the admission departments of colleges should actively participate in determining who gains scholarships based on athletic talent rather that leaving the whole exercise to the sports department. In this way, the capacity to enforce minimum academic requirements upon all high school graduates who seek to attain college scholarships. This will prompt high school students who aspire to apply for basketball, football or baseball scholarships to work extra hard in their studies. This input will in turn increase their chances of graduating with a degree at the end of their scholarship.

            Secondly, college athletes on scholarships should be given a time limit to complete their degree courses, making them only eligible to participate in their respective sporting events before that time limit expires. Additionally, college athletes on scholarships should be made to integrate more with regular students to make them acquire an outlook on education that promotes their pursuit of academic degrees. Such is for example the practice in the University of Notre Dame and in Duke where athletes on or not on scholarship are made to take a full academic load alongside other students so that they can also graduate in time. The National Collegiate Athletic Association should also make its programs more lenient to leave college athletes with ample time to fulfill academic obligations.


            Many of the athletes who seek scholarships do so because they are unable to fully finance degree programs at such institutions. The institutions should not just seek to exploit the talent suck students possess because in the end, it will only compromise their lives. It is very important that college athletes also graduate with a degree since it opens up many opportunities for them after college regardless of whether they make it in professional athletics or not. A degree will enable a former student to seek an alternative career if athletics fail, and can also help him or her manage him or herself better once an opportunity beckons in professional athletics. Colleges should therefore make arrangements to ensure that college athletes on scholarships graduate with a degree as this is very important.


Eitzen, D. (2000, September, 2000). Slaves of Big-Time College Sports. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 129, 3-13.

Framball, M. (2010). The Importance of a College Education. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?The- Importance- of- a- College- Education&id=4113447

Freemen, M. (2006). The Importance of Getting Your Degree. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?The- Importance- of- Getting- Your- Degree&id=175124

Jacowski, T. (2007). The Importance of a Degree. Retrieved May 28, 2010, fromhttp://ezinearticles.com/?The- Importance- of- a- Degree&id=840303

David, D. (2009). Importance of College Education. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://ezinearticles.com/?Importance- of- College- Education&id=2467334

National Library of Education. (2000). College for All? Is There Too Much Emphasis on Getting a 4-Year College Degree? Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/CollegeForAll/title.html

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Why College Athletes on Scholarship should graduate with a Degree. (2016, Sep 21). Retrieved from


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